• 6Sep

    Ensuring people have equal access to digital health information

    Excerpts from an article for pharmaphorum:

    The internet’s democratisation of health information has played a huge role in the rise of the expert patient. But does everyone have equal access to the digital information they need to manage their health? And are the very people digital health is seeking to empower the ones who are getting left behind?

    Empowering people to take control of their health is a central plank of our new patient-centred landscape.

    It’s a path lined by freely available educational resources, online peer support and digital patient support programmes. In short, it has happened thanks to the internet.

    The benefits of digital health in improving adherence to aiding shared decision making are well documented. But when we are sitting down to design the latest all singing, all dancing platform, it can be easy to put style over substance when it comes to digital accessibility.

    At least 11 million people in the UK, more than 15 per cent of the population have some form of disability. Across the EU, one in seven people has some level of activity restriction.

    Many problems, such as cognitive and visual impairment, are linked to long-term conditions – and the people living with these conditions are the intended end users of many digital health interventions. But according to a 2015 report from Citizens Online, at least 80 per cent of websites failed to meet minimum requirements for accessibility.

    Digital Accessibility: A brief landscaping also cited a UN audit which found just three of 100 sites in a global sample met even basic accessibility requirements.

    This inaccessibility is, not unsurprisingly, making the internet a no-go zone for many. In the UK, 82 per cent of blind or partially sighted people who do not go online mention their sight loss as the reason.

    Organisations working in this space, including pharma, have a lot to benefit from thinking about how to stop people falling through the cracks. Many do not know where to start, however.

    The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) offer practical help for developers wanting to ensure accessibility.  The global guidelines, which were updated in June this year, were developed by the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group, part of the World Wide Web consortium.

    The guidelines outline simple design principles that could help people with neurological and physical disabilities, speech and visual impairment, but takes care to note that accessibility is good for everyone.

    Such guidelines are only as good as the sites that follow them though, said the Citizens Online report. It points out that while websites in the UK and the EU are legally required to be accessible to people with disabilities, they rarely are.

    All the evidence shows that this is a problem that spans industries. But arguably, digital accessibility matters more in healthcare, which could be setting a gold standard example.

    Read the full article here: https://pharmaphorum.com/views-and-analysis/equal-access-digital-health-information/